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Saying “yes” to synergy

I’ve been on both the proposing and decision-making ends of a few collaborative relationships lately, which have helped me learn some important things about human personalities that are worth thinking about out loud:

1. What makes us resistant to collaboration? 

In one situation, I was organizing an event and was approached by someone who wanted to co-host the event. I was fairly certain he wanted to co-host so he could promote his own projects and products, and initially, I was extremely resistant to bringing him on board; I didn’t want the social event to become a platform for advertising. Also, he’d popped up out of the blue, so he seemed a bit of an opportunist.

I stepped back and thought about his proposal for a few days. Why was I being so resistant to collaborating with him? The person was more of an expert than I about the subject of the event, he’d presumably bring his own network to participate, and perhaps a bit of stumping for his product wasn’t as outrageous as I’d initially thought. I got back to him and invited him to co-host the event, and he was an enthusiastic, gracious, professional collaborator.

2. What makes others resistant to collaboration?

I’m the kind of person who won’t propose a collaboration if I don’t think it’s a win-win for everyone involved and I don’t like to waste people’s time, so if I come to you with a proposal, you can be sure I’ve thought a considerable amount of time about whether we’ll be a good fit.

After proposing something I thought was extremely synergistic to a prospective organizational partner, I received a disappointingly lukewarm response. “Well, if there’s a synergy,” he said, “then we can consider it.” I wanted to say, “Listen, buddy, there IS a synergy; why can’t you see that?” but obviously, I didn’t. Something about the proposal either wasn’t clear or made him feel a bit threatened. Even though I still think there’s great potential to collaborate with this organization, a partnership won’t be beneficial for anyone if one of the stakeholders is suspicious of the other, if one isn’t willing to take some risks, or if one thinks that opportunities are like pizza… ie: there’s a finite amount for each person (which I’ve written about elsewhere).

3. What makes us say “Yes”?

When I think about the way the partnership with the Belize Tourism Board materialized, I’m slightly amazed because we went from concept to contract in less than a month. There could have been–should have been–dozens of obstacles because I was dealing with a bureaucratic, governmental agency, but I had a collaborative partner who was committed to the idea we’d discussed and co-created, and she pushed it through aggressively.

This is key: everyone has to buy in and believe that the partnership is mutually beneficial. They all have to start with optimism and idealism and trust in each other, but they also have to plan to be as objective and honest as possible when assessing the performance of one another.


What in your personality makes you resistant or open to collaboration? What might happen if you said “Yes”? 


2 responses »

  1. I love working on projects with other people. There’s only so much I can do on my own, and with the right collaboration, new ideas form and take on a life that would have been impossible without the synergy that a pair or group can create. I would say that the one thing that makes me hesitant about something like this is that a lot of work can go into something from one person’s end while others reap the benefits and don’t offer much. That’s something I encountered in college and Corporate America, and though I haven’t encountered it as a freelancer, it’s something I’m always a bit wary of.

  2. Julie – I was reminding myself of your pizza pie analogy the other night, when I was argh-ing over that gold rush story. Ha. Thanks, as always, for the reminder.


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